Climate change is an urgent national security threat that must be confronted with American leadership
Climate change ranks among the most pressing and consequential security threats of our time. We must treat it that way – and confront it head on, through leadership abroad and resolve at home – if we are to meet the challenge.
Trump’s denials of climate change and basic science are so dangerous because climate change is a national security threat that inaction and denial only exacerbate. We must seize the mantle and lead with an affirmative vision that lays the foundation for bold action at home and renewed American leadership abroad.
Climate change is a grave and growing threat to our national security – one that could ultimately make much of our planet uninhabitable.
Already, increasingly frequent and powerful extreme weather events take a growing number of American lives, cause billions of dollars in property damage, jeopardize our access to food and energy, and destroy communities and livelihoods. They also could put half of our military installations at risk of losing some or all functionality.
Abroad, climate change creates and amplifies threats to our security. Rising temperatures and sea levels have the potential to create and deepen humanitarian crises, resource conflicts, water shortages, famines, and mass migrations.
Worst of all, the interaction effects of these threats create cumulative risks that pose a growing danger to our national security.
TRUMP’S WAR ON CLIMATE SCIENCE IS DANGEROUS
Despite the clear threat to our national security, Trump continues to deny, suppress, and censor the scientific consensus on climate change—putting our security at risk.
Where possible, the Trump administration has deleted and omitted the term from strategy documents and public websites. Where Trump cannot censor climate change, as with the Fourth National Climate Assessment, he publicly proclaims that he does not believe the conclusion of his own government, including the Department of Defense and our intelligence agencies.
Trump’s policy of denial enables reckless policies that harm our security, from EPA deregulation and waging a war on renewable energy sources to withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. And, by subjecting our security to politics instead of the best evidence available, it erodes the ability of our military and intelligence agencies to defend our national security.
Climate change is the quintessential global challenge – it recognizes no borders, takes place on a truly global scale, and presents a massive coordination and collective action problem. The world looks to America to lead on precisely these types of challenges. That is why Trump’s abdication of leadership on climate change, most notably his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, has significantly eroded our standing in the world. Worse, it has limited our ability to confront this national security challenge, all while handing over our leadership role to China.
Because no country can solve climate change on its own, we must remain in and build on the Paris Agreement, an American-led effort that represents the first time that the world agreed to a shared framework for combating climate change. Paris encourages all countries to take ambitious actions to combat climate change without penalizing them for falling short. It entails the world’s hub for coordinated action on climate change, and it came to fruition thanks to American leadership. That leadership must be rekindled to ensure that countries continue to take increasingly aggressive action under Paris – a necessity if we are to meet the challenge.
Our security depends on American leadership in combating climate change, at home and abroad. That is why Trump’s reckless denial of climate change is so dangerous.
“Letter to the President” on climate change and national security (March 2019)
“Leaving the Paris Agreement is a Bad Deal for the United States” - Foreign Policy